I have always had a not-so-secret fondness for Rowan. In fact, I have told my family that when I die, I would appreciate a couple of ounces of my ashes being scattered over the Rowan Headquarters.
As far as innovation and pattern support goes, Rowan is is an industry leader. This is my rule for looking at Rowan pattern magazines: the first time you look, be aware that all you may see is the styling. If you are..."of a certain age" you may think that the sweaters are too crazy for you. I usually think, "crap, there is not a single sweater that I could wear." Look a couple of hours later, and you will start actually seeing the gorgeous details of the knitted pieces themselves, and then you will start trying to decide which sweater you wish to knit first. You have to spend a bit of time with the magazine to see past the editorial excesses.
Admittedly, Rowan is so darn expensive. Why?
I would recommend a size US3 needle for working singly. For lace work, try a US7. It can be doubled at DK gauge on a size US6 needle.